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Not-guilty plea in fatal crash case

Posted on: Friday, February 6, 2004

By Peter Boylan Advertiser Staff Writer

A 21-year-old man involved in a fatal traffic collision in 2001 pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge in Circuit Court yesterday. His trial was set for April 5.

Nicholas Tudisco is free on $100,000 bail and will be allowed to return to California, where he is enrolled in college.

City prosecutors have said Tudisco was racing at more than 100 mph on the H-l on Aug. 26, 2001, when he lost control of his car, struck the center barrier and crashed into a van in which Holy Trinity School teacher Elizabeth Kekoa was riding. She was killed.

Tudisco has surrendered both his California and Hawai'i driver's licenses. "It's a sad situation all around," said Tudisco's attorney Michael Green. "We have a young man and you look at the attention he's getting, it's tough stuff."

Green said he is not convinced that it was Tudisco's vehicle that caused Kekoa's death. Tudisco was arrested at the scene, but released as the investigation continued. He was charged by an O'ahu grand jury indictment last week. "If they (the prosecution) took 2 1/2 years (to indict) then we should have at least a year to sift through what they found," Green said.

Tudisco was scheduled to fly back to the Mainland last night with his father. A year after the accident, the Tudisco family moved to Washington, D.C.

Ifconvicted of manslaughter, Tudisco could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. City Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata, the division director for trials in the Prosecutor's Office, will prosecute the case.

Tudisco is a junior at California Polytechnic State University, majoring in business. Larry Lee, the school's baseball coach, confirmed Tudisco has been suspended indefinitely from playing. Tudisco and his parents, Michael and Cynthia Tudisco, are named in a civil suit filed in March 2002 on behalf of Kekoa's husband by attorney Wayne Kekina.

Kekina said Tudisco's parents are included in the suit because the car was registered to them, they knew it had been modified to go faster, and they were aware of their son's convictions for speeding in 1999 and 2000.